Zambrano Gets Cubs Back in the Win Column

Defense has become an issue for the Cubs, and manager Lou Piniella made one significant change Tuesday night.

Piniella benched catcher Geovany Soto, who is struggling both at the plate and behind it, in favor of Koyie Hill.

Soto, last year's Rookie of the Year, is 2-for-14 on the road trip and hitting .119 for the season with no homers and two RBIs. He also is 3-for-14 in throwing out attempted base-stealers.

Things may have come to a head Monday, when the Diamondbacks went 5-for-6 in stealing off Soto and Cubs pitchers, with starter Ted Lilly being slow to the plate. The scouting reports may be to run at will on Soto, who battled a sore right shoulder earlier this month.

As far as offense goes, Piniella repeatedly has said he wants Soto to hit the ball up the middle and to the right, or opposite side, so that he sees the ball longer.

The Cubs also miss the injured Aramis Ramirez at third base. In Monday's loss, Mike Fontenot was late in getting a throw off to first base, and the runner beat it out.

Although the Cubs (10-9) pulled back above .500 by routing the Diamondbacks 11-3 Tuesday, Piniella chalked up the mediocre start to injuries to key players and to significant roster turnover that forced teammates to get used to one another.

CUBS 11, DIAMONDBACKS 3: One night after being stymied by RHP Dan Haren, the Cubs pounded RHP Yusmeiro Petit, scoring three runs in the third and then chasing him in the fourth, when they scored four times. Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer in the third. Fontenot added a two-run shot in the fourth. RHP Carlos Zambrano went seven innings and hit a single, a double and a homer.

NOTES, PLAYER NEWS

--Zambrano became the seventh pitcher to reach 1,200 strikeouts while with the Cubs when he fanned Arizona OF Chris Young in the second inning Tuesday. At the plate, Zambrano came a triple short of the cycle. He homered leading off the seventh. It was the 17th home run of his career, tops among Cubs pitchers all time.

--CF Kosuke Fukudome singled twice and walked twice Tuesday. His on-base percentage (.482) ranks third in the NL, and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.109) is fifth in the league.

--Ramirez probably needs a few more days to rest his strained left calf, and if it doesn't respond, the disabled list is a possibility. Ramirez worked out against Tuesday in Arizona and didn't seem pleased with his progress. Piniella said Ramirez "couldn't accelerate at all." The Cubs will test Ramirez on Thursday at Wrigley Field and then "weigh all our options," according to Piniella.

--Lee said he is ready to play, but Piniella held him out one more night Tuesday. Lee has been bothered since Sunday by neck spasms, caused by a bulging disk. Lee may be able to start Wednesday.

--RF Milton Bradley returned to the lineup Tuesday and went 2-for-4 with a walk. Bradley has missed most of the last 2 1/2 weeks because of a strained right groin. Bradley's return moved Fukudome from right field back to center.

CUBS FANS STILL PACK CHASE FIELD

The Diamondbacks might have felt outnumbered Tuesday.

Fans of the Cubs were discernibly more vocal than the locals during the 11-3 victory at Chase Field, although they did have more to yell about.

The Cubs have a large, loyal following in the Phoenix area because 1) they hold spring training at HoHoKam Park in suburban Mesa, and 2) there are a number of retirees from the Midwest who have relocated to the desert.

D-backs founder Jerry Colangelo is a native of Chicago Heights, moving to the area when the Phoenix Suns were awarded an NBA franchise.

"It is what it is," D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds said. "We've only been around 10 years, and the Cubs have been around 100 years. We're in a transplant city. You can't worry about it."

In the Cubs' four-run fourth inning Tuesday, Cubs fans broke into a "Let's go, Cubbies" chant. Arizona fans countered with "Let's go, D-backs," but they did not seem to raise as much clatter. During the sing-along in the seventh-inning stretch, the dominant proper name that followed "root, root, root for the" was decidedly "Cubbies."

As a sign of the economic times, the game drew an announced crowd of 30,351, the lowest in the series since 2006. The games routinely sold out in the D-backs' early years, when Colangelo was able to maneuver two home series with the Cubs in three of the franchise's first four years.

--The Sports XChange

MINORS WATCH

NASHVILLE 7, IOWA 4 (CLASS AAA)

At Nashville, Cubs (13-7) pitchers allowed 16 hits in the loss Tuesday. LHP J.R. Mathes (3-2) started and suffered the loss, allowing four runs and 12 hits over five innings. RF Jake Fox (2-for-4) hit a two-run home run, his 12th of the season, to pace the Cubs' offense. Fox has five home runs over his last five games and leads the Pacific Coast League in homers, RBI (31) and batting average (.446) through 19 games. SS Andres Blanco (2-for-3) added two hits to extend his hit streak to seven straight games. He is batting .343 with a home run, five doubles and nine RBI through 20 games.

CAROLINA 7, TENNESSEE 5 (CLASS AA)

At Sevierville, the Smokies (9-9) hit three home runs in the loss Tuesday. LF Ty Wright (1-for-4) and 1B Kyle Reynolds (1-for-3) each hit solo home runs, their first of the season, and C Welington Castillo (2-for-4) added his second home run. RHP Casey Coleman (3-1) started and suffered his first loss of the season, allowing a season-high four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three batters.

BREVARD COUNTY 1, DAYTONA 0 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (9-9) were no-hit in the loss Tuesday as RHP Evan Anundsen tossed nine complete innings, allowing one walk and striking out 10 Daytona batters. The Cubs used four pitchers with RHP Steve Vento (0-2) allowing the game's only run in 1 1/3 innings of relief. RHP Craig Muschko started and tossed four shutout innings, allowing three hits. He struck out four batters.

PEORIA 1, CEDAR RAPIDS 0 (CLASS-A) – GAME 1

At Peoria, RHP Chris Carpenter (1-1) tossed six shutout innings of two-hit ball for his first win of the season Tuesday. He walked three batters and struck out three batters. CF David Macias (2-for-3) paced the Chiefs' offense atop the order with two hits.

PEORIA 3, CEDAR RAPIDS 0 – GAME 2

The Chiefs (9-8) received another pitching gem, as RHP Christopher Archer (1-0) tossed five shutout innings of one-hit ball for his first win. He struck out a career-high eight batters and issued two walks. Chiefs pitchers combined to allow just five hits combined in the pair of seven-inning contests Tuesday. At the plate, 1B Rebel Ridling (3-for-3) paced the Chiefs' offense with three hits, including his second home run. 2B Josh Harrison (2-for-3) added two hits to extend his hit streak to seven straight games.

--Staff Reports

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